(continuing our historical tour)
In Mughal period, Sheikh Enayet Ullah, a landlord, acquired a very big area and built a beautiful palace. Around 1740 A.D., the son of the Sheikh sold the property to French traders. The French became very wealthy doing business here in competition with the English. However, in the English-French war, French were defeated and all their properties was captured by the English. For the next 40 years the property switched back and forth between the French and the British several times. Finally, in 1830 the French were forced to leave subcontinent. They sold all their properties in Dhaka. A trader, Khwaja Alimullah purchased the property. After his death his son named the property “Ahsan Manzil” for his son Ahsan Ullah.
In the evening of 7th April, 1888, a great tornado/cyclone hit Dhaka city causing great damage. Ahsan Manzil was greatly damaged and abandoned. After the death of Khwaja Ahsanullah in 1901, the glory of Ahsan Manzil was ended. His successors couldn’t maintain it. They rented different parts of the palace to tenants, who actually made it a slum. In 1952 the goverment acquired the property and in 1985, Dhaka National Museum made it a museum.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum. There are beautiful vaulted ceilings, large wooden stairs leading to the second floor with carved bannisters, marble rooms, and colourful ceramic tiles on the floors. While we visited inside a downpour arrived outside and we were unable to visit the grounds. Our guide and none of the websites I read, could explain why the palace is painted pink. It is—and so is commonly called the “Pink Palace.”
We walked to some places and in one area the school children were lining the streets forming a “human chain against terrorism.” There were several hundred children. Our photos only show the boys’ line but later we also saw girls forming a “human chain.”
We explored what is known as Hindu Street. Hindu Street has been inhabited by Indian artisans for nearly 300 years. The street looks like any other in Old Dhaka; narrow, packed with people, and dirty. The buildings have been inhabited by the artisans for centuries, are in serious disrepair, and appear not to have been renovated for just as long. Lining this street of weathered facades are shops selling traditional instruments, jewelry made from conch shells, and bouquets of marigolds. Along the street at various places are Hindu temples where worshippers gather in front of ornate statues.
Sadarghat River Port, on the river Burigangais (Old Ganges), is one of the most vibrant places in Dhaka. Here, the Sadarghat Launch Terminal is one of the largest river ports in the world. About 200 large and small passenger launches depart and arrive at the terminal every day. According to the officials at the terminal, 30,000 people, on average, use the terminal for departure and arrival daily. Visiting this place was pandemonium.
The River Buriganga, though smelly and muddy, is the lifeblood of Old Dhaka. There are large river ferries, overladen with people and local produce, with loading and unloading activities to ramshackle warehouses on the riverfront. Triple-decked ferries are docked along the side of the jetty while small wooden boats ply their trade in between.
Among all the large ships are the tiny wooden boats which cross the river with their single oarsman standing at their bows. We were scheduled to ride one of these boats, but because of the rain and the lateness of the day, we did not. There are some very luxurious launches and steamers here. These are the commercial transport to the southern part of Bangladesh.
We travelled to Old Dhaka by car from our home but then rode rickshaws between most of the sites. Chaos! Jams!